Dutchman Luuk de Jong hit a wonderful hat-trick for Eredivisie leaders PSV at AZ Alkmaar in a 4-2 victory to further rebuild his damaged reputation.

  • By David Lee Wheatley
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de jong rinjWhen front-man Luuk de Jong left the Eredivisie in 2012 for Borussia Monchengladbach, the smart money was on the FC Twente striker to wreak havoc in Bundesliga.

However, injury problems stopped him in his tracks and he subsequently found playing opportunities severely limited.

A loan move to Newcastle United came about in January 2014, but de Jong singularly failed to impress within the physical surroundings of the Premier League.

At almost 24 years of age, de Jong’s career reached something of a crossroads and there appeared little guarantee of an imminent return to goalscoring form when PSV signed him up to end the Swiss-born forward’s German nightmare.

Incredibly, his market value had tumbled down to a third of the €15 million paid by Monchengladbach for his services in 2012 when he was eventually transferred to the Eindhoven giants just two years later.

Despite abundant concerns to the contrary, the tall centre-forward got right back on the goal trail after his re-emergence in the Dutch top-flight when striking ten goals in just fourteen league outings by December 17.

On top of that, de Jong also found the net against Estoril and Panathinaikos as Phillip Cocu’s men reached the knockout stages of this season’s UEFA Europa League.

Rather a quiet spell followed to allow the most-ardent naysayers a chance to begin chuntering away again with the target-man going six league fixtures without a goal, but he still provided four assists during that period and his performance levels remained high. There was also a double haul in the KNVB Cup defeat to Roda in January to offer further proof of his finishing skills.

Due to his significant spike in confidence, it seemed only a matter of time before the poacher finally got his name back on the scoresheet and it was top-four hopefuls AZ who paid the ultimate price.

De Jong’s intelligent movement, aerial ability and accurate shooting were all in evidence as he clinically dispatched three of the four real chances he was afforded in completing a ’perfect’ hat-trick.

It certainly showed that he is back to his supreme best, which is light years ahead of what he showed in Germany and England, thus offering national team boss Guus Hiddink another potential forward option.

Additionally, his persistence in recovering a portion of the enviable reputation he once revelled in should be admired and may also force those who witnessed him in action at Borussia-Park and St. James’ Park to rethink their original opinions of a player whose predatory instincts are still very much intact.